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ISLAMABAD: Global tech companies have told the Pakistani government that its “draconian” data regulations would make it extremely difficult for them to continue their operations, two days after the IT ministry announced the rules to determine how it would to govern social media in the country, according to a media report Friday.

Under new rules announced by the Ministry of Information and Technology on Wednesday, social media companies and Internet service providers will provide the designated investigative agency with any information or data in a decrypted, legible and understandable format. , the Dawn newspaper reported.

Depending on justifiable technical limitations, the information to be provided may include subscriber information, traffic data, content data and any other information or data.

In a statement, the Internet Coalition in Asia (AIC), which exclusively represents the major global Internet companies on public policy issues, expressed its alarm over the scope of the new law targeting Internet companies, as well as the unclear process of the government with which their rules were developed

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Imran Khan promised to launch a broad-based consultation on content regulation following a strong response from stakeholders over the issuance of the Officially Known Rules (Citizen Protection Online) 2020.

The consultation that was announced in February never took place, AIC managing director Jeff Paine regretted in a statement.

Technology companies warned that the rules would make it extremely difficult for AIC members to make their services available to Pakistani users and businesses.

The draconian demands of data localization will impair people’s ability to access a free and open internet and shut down Pakistan’s digital economy from the rest of the world, the AIC said.

Since February when the rules were first issued, the AIC has repeatedly urged the government to adopt a comprehensive consultation strategy.

Earlier in October, the AIC had expressed its reservations about the consultation process in a letter to Prime Minister Khan.

Lack of transparency in consultation, a shortened consultation process and strict local office requirements for online platforms are very worrying, Paine stated.

Therefore, the consultation process seems to have lost credibility, he said.

AIC has said if Pakistan wanted to be an attractive destination for technology investment and achieve its goal of digital transformation, then it needs to work with the industry in practical, clear rules that protect the benefits of the internet and keep people safe from damage.

Pakistani social media users and rights groups have already rejected the latest announcement of the rules by the government.

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